Synopsis: After witnessing a murder, a punk rock band is forced into a vicious fight for survival against a group of maniacal skinheads.
Release Date: April 29, 2016 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Crime, Horror
A couple of years ago, writer/director Jeremy Saulnier caused quite a stir in the independent film community with his genre-bending revenge tale Blue Ruin. Now, he’s riding that buzz with the equally impressive punk rock horror film Green Room.
Green Room is about a punk band called The Ain’t Rights who are in the middle of a disastrous tour, stealing gas to make it to the next show and living off the kindness of promoters and fans once they get there. After one particularly disappointing gig, the band, consisting of guitarist Sam (Alia Shawkat from “Arrested Development”), bassist Pat (Star Trek‘s Anton Yelchin), drummer Reece (Joe Cole from “Peaky Blinders”), and singer Tiger (Victor Frankenstein‘s Callum Turner), is offered another, more promising show at a secluded club tucked away deep in the forests of Oregon. The club ends up being a hangout for Nazi skinheads, and although the band plays its set without much incident, they unfortunately witness the murder of a girl as they are packing up to leave. They end up locked in the club’s green room with the murdered girl’s friend, Amber (Imogen Poots from Fright Night), while the skinheads who are running the club call their ruthless leader, Darcy Banker (Patrick Stewart from the X-Men movies), to clean up the mess. The band soon realizes that their quickie gig has turned into a fight for their lives.
With Green Room, Jeremy Saulnier creates a world that reeks of authenticity and realism, a world that is full of hate and animosity. Then, he drops four likeable and relatable heroes into that world and forces them to fight their way out with whatever weapons that they can dig up or throw together. The slowly and deliberately unfolding narrative owes a debt of gratitude to fish-out-of-water movies like Deliverance and siege movies such as Assault on Precinct 13, but it never feels like a rip-off or an imitation. It’s a highly original exercise in paranoia and terror.
It’s interesting to see Sir Patrick Stewart as a villain, especially one as ruthless and cunning as Darcy Banker. It’s not much of a stretch for the master thespian; he plays the role with the same authoritative seriousness that he has when he approaches the roles of Captain Picard or Professor Xavier, but when the words are put into the mouth of an antagonist, Stewart is more intimidating than compassionate. The evil of Darcy Banker is derived more from Saulnier’s screenplay than Stewart’s performance, but it’s still difficult to imagine another actor as the villain in Green Room.
The best thing that Green Room does is keep its tone consistent. It would have been very easy for Saulnier to cop out and turn the ending of the film into a cookie-cutter shoot-em-up (*cough* The Purge *cough*), but to his credit, he doesn’t – Green Room stays tense and suspenseful for the entire length of the film instead of erupting into a sudden volley of gunfire and explosions, and it’s a much stronger experience because of it.
In short, go see Green Room. It’s one of the finest movies of the year.
During one scene in Green Room, The Ain’t Rights are asked by an interviewer to name their “desert island bands,” and they come up with selections like Black Sabbath, Slayer, and The Misfits. For having such great favorite bands, the music in Green Room is very generic, just a bunch of run-of-the-mill hardcore, but that’s probably the point; the movie isn’t about the music, it’s about the band and its struggles. The music of The Ain’t Rights was written by the members of Saulnier’s old DC punk band, so it’s fairly authentic in sound and attitude. The movie is also peppered with songs from other punk and hardcore bands with names like Corpus Rottus and Battletorn, and there’s even a nifty cover of Dead Kennedys “Nazi Punks F–k Off” that The Ain’t Rights, in the true spirit of punk, play to antagonize the Nazis in a suicidal way, although it actually earns them a tense bit of respect – the skinheads seem to admire their guts (of course, this is before the whole murder-in-the-green-room thing). Oh, and to cap it all off, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Sinister Purpose” is in there as well, just to throw a wrench into the punk rock workings. The cinematic score, composed by Brooke and Will Blair (who have provided the music for all of Saulnier’s movies), is made up of moody and unsettling retro synthesized pieces that would be right at home alongside the film scores of John Carpenter. While it’s not going to become a classic soundtrack in any way, the music to Green Room does its job effectively.
The fear that is generated by Green Room comes from the sheer realism of the situation. The Ain’t Rights are not being stalked by zombies or vampires; the threat is coming from real people, and so the audience is able to understand exactly how intimidated and horrified the band is. There is a palpable sense of anxiety and tension that simmers throughout the movie, only boiling over every so often to keep it unpredictable. These are not cheap jump scares, but carefully crafted sequences of dread and uneasiness with explosive payoffs. Green Room is filled with brutal violence, but none of if it gratuitous – on the contrary, all of the bloodshed and carnage is essential to the situation, letting the heroes (and the audience) know that the villains mean business. The bottom line is that Green Room puts the audience on the edge of its seat and keeps it there with a heavy dose of terrifying suspense.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Jeremy Saulnier
- Producer(s): Neil KoppVictor MoyersAnish Savjani
- Screenwriter(s): Jeremy Saulnier
- Cast: Anton Yelchin (Pat)Alia Shawkat (Sam)Joe Cole (Reece) Callum Turner (Tiger)Imogen Poots (Amber)Patrick Stewart (Darcy Banker)Mark Webber (Daniel)Macon Blair (Gabe)Eric Edelstein (Big Justin)Taylor Tunes (Emily)David W. Thompson (Tad)Samuel Summer (Jonathan)
- Editor(s): Julia Bloch
- Cinematographer: Sean Porter
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Amanda Needham
- Casting Director(s): Avy Kaufman
- Music Score: Brooke and Will Blair
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA